Posts about Exploding_TV

The unbearable weight of infrastructure

After returning from the National Association of Broadcasters/Radio Television News Directors Association convention in Vegas, I have been haunted by the size of the infrastructure of the industry. The convention center was packed — blimp hangar after blimp hangar and the lots inbetween and meeting rooms all around — with salaries and equipment devoted just to filling a little screen a few minutes a day. Look at the video below — not yet; wait until I tell you — and you will see thousands of salaries walking around — and, of course, they represent a tiny fraction of a percent of the people who work in TV, just those who are sent to conventions in Vegas. There are thousands more like them at home. That will be the death of TV: the unbearable weight of its infrastructure. (I talked about the media infrastructure implosion here and I calculated the savings of a new world of TV practically free of infrastructure here.)

At an RTNDA panel, my pal, panel star Michael Rosenblum, lectured executives and stars of local TV news about this implosion. There was no lighting and so my video of him sucked even more than my usual video (proving the point of the pros, I suppose, and making them smug in their belief that better pixels equal lifetime jobs). And so I put his words on top of random images from the floor of the convention, just to show the number of people, the salaries, the weight of it. Over to you, Michael:

But, of course, it’s not just about the infrastructure of staff and equipment but of culture. Now see a San Francisco anchorman from WPIX TV complain, predictably, about quality and hear Michael’s response (again there was no lighting — as the anchorman pointed out — and my video sucks, but you can get the substance of it; think of this as a transcript with sound, a podcast with wallpaper):

Now go to Michael’s blog as he reacts to my wishful and surely and sadly wrong suggestion that the end of the age of the anchor may be at hand — anchors like that guy. He calculates the real cost of Katie Couric’s $14-million-per-year salary:

The whole concept of ‘anchor’ is a complete waste of time and money.

Where did this come from, this notion of the ‘anchor’?

People seem to believe that the ‘anchor’ gives the newscast some kind of credibility.

After all, we call it, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.



We don’t call it, The New York Times with Tom Friedman, but the New York Times still seems to be pretty credible. And we certainly don’t pay Tom Friedman $14 million a year!

That is a nice sum, $14 million (let the number roll around your tongue for a minute), a year, to work 22 minutes a night, reading what someone else has written for you. By the way, in every other journalistic endeavor we would call that plagiarism. Only in television do we deign to call it ‘journalism’.

There is a rationale that these people somehow earn their pornographic salaries.


What they do instead is strip the true journalistic assets of any newsroom, whether it is local news or network, because that $14 million has to come from somewhere, and it comes from the budget of the news division. How many local news operations work with old equipment, broken vans, ancient editing decks and a skeleton staff so that they can pay the ‘anchors’ their insane salaries?

In short, Katie is infrastructure. Along with all that equipment and those executives and those studios. Michael suggests a better use for the money that buys all that infrastructure: reporting.

Newspapers are fairly simple. You get a bunch of reporters. Pay them a decent salary. You give them pads and pencils. You say, ‘here’s your pencil, there’s the door, see you at 6′and they go off and find stories. Works pretty well. (That is why TV news gets its stories from the newspapers, and not the other way round).

We could build a TV newsroom based on a newspaper. We could, for argument’s sake, take 100 great journalists, give them small HD camcorders and laptops and say ‘here’s your camera, there’s the door, see you at 6, and send them all over the world. They could upload their stories and feed them to a web site, 24 hours a day. Refreshing all the time. With text and video and sound… Live and podcast and VOD.

Pretty cool.

Really kind of a digital model for journalism for the future, don’t you think?

And it would not cost all that much.

Let’s say we paid each of our 100 reporters, $140,000 a year. That’s a pretty good salary. You would attract a lot of talent. Real reporting talent.

Where would you get the money from?

Well, let’s take the $14 million you’re paying Katie Couric and guess what… you’re there.

What, really, do you think gives you better journalism?

And then get rid of some of that unnecessary equipment and layers of production and management and imagine how much more you could spend on journalism. Of course, it wouldn’t all fit in 22 minutes a day. But to hell with those 22 minutes. Feed the web with reporting.

If you get rid of the presses and the trucks and the broadcast towers and the headquarters buildings and the fancy equipment and the old-time stars, if you kill the infrastructure, you are left with more resources for journalism — and savings in the face of reduced revenue in a suddenly competitive marketplace — and the bottom line is a and more efficient and sustainable business.

Infrastructure is the enemy of journalism.

Ah, but you say, what about editors and correspondents? If they’re vital, they’re not infrastructure. If they are not vital, then they are merely expenses and you must get rid of them.

Infrastructure is the enemy.

MSNBC, network of old farts

I envision the meeting at NBC News and MSNBC when they got the first debate of the campaign and met to decide what to do about it. Anything new since the last time? ‘Naw,’ they say. ‘When’s lunch?’

Not much is new. Besides YouTube. And MySpace. And the explosion of weblogs. And the spread of easy video editing tools. And podcasts. And iTunes. And the distributed media marketplace. And the incredible power of Google and its search and ads. And the implosion of old TV. And competition for cable from the internet. Naw, not much. You’d think they would have sat around that mahogany table and wondered what new they could do in this new media world. But, no, they decided to do things the way they always had done them.: They restricted use of the video from the people’s debate because they thought they could. Poor, sad, extinct, old sods.

So when Ad Age asked MSNBC for tomorrow’s edition about its antiquated media rules for the debate video, the network’s response:

In an e-mail, an MSNBC spokesman said, “The entire debate is available for all to view and link to on”

Where it’s hidden inside the bowels of an old network site. And, actually, it’s not even findable: I can’t see a reference to “debate” or “democratic” on the home page tonight. Neither is it truly linkable; each debate Q&A does not have but should have a permalink. And it’s certainly not embeddable so that bloggers could spread the video and the debate (and MSNBC’s brand). And, Lord knows, it’s not remixable! And so the people say, to hell with it, let’s just put it up on YouTube around those old farts. (Crossposted from PrezVid)

Free the debates! Free Joe Biden!

So Joe Biden is flagrantly violating MSNBC’s rules prohibiting internet use of the debate. He’s posting videos of himself and other candidates from the network at YouTube and, in turn, embedding them at his Head to Head virtual debate — which is exactly what MSNBC should be doing and allowing us to do (see my suggestions below). And, by the way, if MSNBC posted the clips on YouTube, they’d do a better technical job of it and their logo wouldn’t be all schmutzig. Will MSNBC go after Biden for stealing his own words and putting them on YouTube for us all to see? Watch this space:

Come on, NBC, do the right thing. Free the debates. Release them for our use under Creative Commons.

I sent email to Steve Capus, president of NBC News, yesterday and have heard nothing back yet. Here’s what I asked:


First, it was a pleasure meeting you on the RTNDA panel.

The reason I put in a call to you yesterday is that I’d like to find out the rationale behind the no-internet restriction on debate video. Clearly and not surprisingly, I have an opinion on this myself:

I’d like to ask:

* Why did NBC News put a no-internet restriction on the debate video? What is the rationale?

* Would NBC News consider Prof. Lawrence Lessig’s call for the networks to make debate video available under an open Creative Commons License?

* I’d be grateful if you’d address the question of whether MSNBC owns this debate or whether it should be the property of the American citizenry in this election.

* Is the company going to demand that the clips that have been put up on video-sharing services be taken down and will it send cease-and-desist notices to bloggers who embed them?

thanks much

I also asked Arianna Huffington what their policy will be with the HuffingtonPost/Yahoo/Slate online debates. She said they are deciding in a meeting on Friday and she’ll let us know immediately. I’m also asking the other networks what their policies will be.

Free the debates! Free the debates! Free the debates!

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

Advice for MSNBC

If MSNBC had any sense, which it doesn’t, it would have taken every one-minute answer from last night’s ping-pong debate and put them up on YouTube themselves. Then, today, we’d be able to watch each one without feeling as if we were trying to count cars on a speeding train. And, more important, we’d be able to comment on them and embed them in our blogs. We’d see which clips are the most popular, the most talked about. We’d get a new sense of what the electorate thinks, which itself would be news. If NBC also made the video files available, we’d see the post-debate commentary not from the same old made-up faces on the networks but from the people who matter, the voters: us. MSNBC would be part of the conversation, in the thick of it, which is exactly where it should want to be. Instead, the network is acting like the bratty and unpopular rich kid who takes him marbles and harumphs home, ruining the game for everyone.

But it’s happening without MSNBC, of course. There are already loads of clips up on YouTube, put there by dastardly copyright thieves, in NBC News’ view, or by engaged voters and viewers, in my view. And as much as I’m busting them for not doing the internet right, I have to believe that even MSNBC won’t have the bad sense to try to pull those clips and send cease-and-desists to the citizens who are sharing moments from our own democratic debate. (Quick, somebody put a leash on that lawyer!)

The net result, though, is that the discussion is happening on YouTube and on blogs but not around MSNBC, thanks to the network’s rules and to the fact that its clips are not linkable or embeddable and are chosen by producers instead of voters. A true case of cutting off the nose.

The side effect is that the clips are on YouTube but they are not on other networksnews sites. So you could have them promoting MSNBC today along with the viewers but because MSNBC insisted on NO internet usage whatsoever, they’ve given up millions of dollars worth of free promotion and branding. Foolish.

It’s not too late to fix this, though. NBC could put the clips up on YouTube right now (later, they could do this on their new embeddable service). And they could announce right now that they will follow Larry Lessig’s advice and release the next, Republican debate under an open Creative Commons license requiring attribution and links back to the networks’ site. They could say they’re doing this in the interests of stimulating the democratic discussion. But the truth is, it’d just be smart business. If they did that, I have no doubt that they’d get more traffic and more attention and out of that, more money. Instead, they’re only engendering the animus of the voters and viewers online.

Just to show solidarity with the YouTube gang of thieves, I’ve embedded clips of the two funniest moments from the debate over at Prezvid.

For shame, NBC News: Stealing the debate

A properly pissed off birdie forwarded me NBC News’ restrictions on tonight’s presidential debates, which are many and lead off with this: “internet use is not permitted.”

I think that’s ridiculous and so I sought to find out why they would do this. I called Joe Alicastro, producer of the debate for MSNBC, who was on site. I asked him why they were restricting use of the material on the internet. He twice didn’t answer and said “that’s our policy.” I said I know that’s their policy. I asked why. He would not answer.

I asked whether he thought the Amerian people had a right to this debate since it is our election. He said that “the American people have ample opportunity to view the debate on MCNBC and two North Carolina stations.”

Shameful. What makes NBC think it has the right to own the democratic discussion in this country?

Alicastro specifically said that we could blog the event — thank you — but could not use video. Hmmm. What do you have to say about that, bloggers? Fellow journalists?

Then Alicastro got pissed off himself and said that I had “not made an appointment for an interview” and “grabbed his cell phone number” (given to me by his colleagues at the company) and then he ended with “byeee” and hung up.

I have put in a call with Steve Capus, head of NBC News, with whom I served on a panel at the Radio Televison News Directors Association last week — where he and we discussed the wonders of the internet and remixing and discussing. I’ll ask Capus the same question: Why?

And let’s repeat Larry Lessig’s call for the parties to insist that the debates be open for use on the internet — but us, the people.

Here, for your amazement, are the myriad restrictions MSNBC put on what they think is their — but is truly our — debate:


(The following rules apply to all media organizations that are not part of NBC)

News organizations, including radio, network television, cable television and local television may use excerpts of “The South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate” subject to the following restrictions (internet use is not permitted):

1. An unobstructed onscreen credit “MSNBC” must appear during each debate excerpt and remain on screen for the entire excerpt.

2. Each debate excerpt must be introduced with an audio credit to MSNBC.

3. No excerpt may air in any medium until the live debate concludes at 8:30 pm ET.

4. No more than a combined total of 2 minutes of excerpts may be chosen for use during the period from the end of the live debate (8:30 pm ET) until 1:00 am ET on Friday, April 27. After 1:00 am ET, Friday, April 27, a total of 10 minutes may be selected (including any excerpts aired before 1:00AM). The selected excerpts may air as often as desired but the total of excerpts chosen may not exceed the limits outlined.

5. No excerpts may be aired after 8:30 pm on Saturday, May 26th. Excerpts may not be archived. Any further use of excerpts is by express permission of MSNBC only.

6. All debate excerpts must be taped directly from MSNBC’s cablecast or obtained directly from MSNBC and may not be obtained from other sources, such as satellite or other forms of transmission. No portions of the live event not aired by MSNBC may be used.

A feed of MSNBC’s telecast of the debate will be provided (details below), additionally limited audio/video mults will be available on site in the media center.

(Crossposted from Prezvid)

A world without Katies?

BBC Director General says that the era of the anchor “has virtually died out.”. From a Guardian report:

“The simple thing I can point to is that BBC news has changed somewhat over the years and the traditional role of a newsreader as opposed to a correspondent or news presenter has virtually died out across BBC services,” he said. “We tend to use journalists across all our programmes and on News 24 to read the news headlines.”

Now, of course, the British have always had a different attitude toward anchors. They’re merely newsreaders there, not the stars that they are here. But still, this is a major shift.

What would news organizations here do without the star power of the anchor? Perhaps they could make the quality of their reporting the star.

I’m not ready for prime time

Last week, I did an interview for the CBS Evening News about the online civility discussion. It didn’t make it to air (after my Free Speech segment also did not see the light of video, I’m getting a complex). So now it’s an online exclusive, an Eye to Eye segment intro-ed by Katie herself. You can watch it here. Given CBS’ new video-everywhere deals, I think I’ll soon be able to embed such a segment. But now I can only link to it.

The taping of the segment was both funny and emblematic of how big TV works. I did the whole interview looking at the camera in Washington while Daniel Sieberg asked the questions in New York. But after we finished it all, they realized they’d set up the shot wrong — “wrong” being a relative term, relevant to the orthodoxy of old TV. I was looking straight at the camera but Daniel was looking to the side, as if we were in the same room with bookshelves behind each of us. That’s how they often make such interviews. But we were now now in visual sync. So we went through it twice again with him asking me the questions — once with him looking at the camera and once with me looking to the side. Sadly, I didn’t do as well the second or third time around. On the air, they surely would have edited it the “right” way. But when they put it up online, to their credit, they didn’t let that broadcast orthodoxy worry them; they put up the better discussion — my to-the-camera answers with his to-the-side questions — and they let it run more than 1:30 (I start getting tired of even myself at the 5:00 mark).

YouTube, campaign ads, and local TV

Below, David Johnson leaves a provocative comment on the impact of YouTube on local TV stations if and when political advertising migrates online:

there’s a big elephant in the room on viral video for politics. youtube could be for local broadcast what craigslist is for newspapers. most local broadcast stations desperately need political advertising to stay in the black. if the advertising pie doesn’t expand and dollars are shifted out of mainstream broadcast to online — as we’re seeing elsewhere already among major advertisers — this could have a serious impact on bottom lines at struggling affiliates.

Local affiliates are already facing a bleaker future than they’ll breath out loud because when the internet grows to become the dominant means of distribution, their value as distributors only shrinks. I hadn’t thought of political advertising as their Craigs List but I think he has a point. All political advertising won’t migrate online yet because the audience on broadcast is bigger and campaigns are inherently conservative. But there will be a point of no return.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)